Ex-Massey Energy CEO’s fate in hands of West Virginia jury
Members of a West Virginia jury have began deliberating the fate of former Massey Energy’s chief executive, Don Blankenship, who faces charges related to a deadly 2010 coal mine explosion.
The 8-women and 4-men were handed the case Tuesday afternoon, AP reports, after spending more than six weeks listening the 27 witnesses that gave testimony in court.
Blankenship, 65, is charged with of conspiring to break mine safety laws at Upper Big Branch Mine, and then lying to investors and federal authorities after an explosion at the mine killed 29 miners. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of all three charges.
The former mine boss has denied any wrongdoing. On Monday, his attorneys rested their case without calling a single witness, and they have argued that prosecutors failed to meet the burden of proof required to convict Blankenship on any counts.
Defense attorney William Taylor said in his closing statement Tuesday that there was “no evidence” to convict the former coal CEO.
“We require the government to prove more than that a man was in charge of a company when a terrible tragedy occurred,” he was quoted as saying by WV Metronews.com. “In this country, we don’t convict people, rich or poor, on the basis of ‘maybes.’”
Prosecutors contend that the man once known as West Virginia’s “King of Coal” put dollars ahead of human safety in the years before the deadly 2010 accident.
The closely watched trial has been one of the most high-profile cases in West Virginia in decades, as the explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine is considered the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in four decades.